So what's different? Well, the weather, for one thing; and rather than the 60p a kilo supermarket flour of my last few attempts I went for a more expensive flour from Bambuni (Shipton Mill, I think), which I'm sure Huey will consider the absolutely crucial determinant; I'm now using a starter that I, erm, started from scratch; I'm also now using a proving basket and a peel (to transfer the dough onto the heated stone in the oven lickety-spit); but, really, I reckon it's mainly down to three factors:
- I've ditched the overnight sponge palaver, my thinking being that maybe the length of time was causing the lack of the sour tang taste I was after.
- I've upped the amount of starter added to the dough for the same reason, and also because I thought this might help achieve a wetter texture and larger holes in the crumb.
- I've adopted Richard Bertinet's slapping/stretching method (see the video below) instead of a traditional kneading method or the 'just stretch and fold a few times' method.
300g strong white bread flour
1 tsp sugar
Mix the above in a bowl that has a lid . Place the lid on top and slightly ajar. Leave to rest (on your kitchen top, not in the fridge). Give it a good stir every 24 hours. After a day or so you should see bubbles forming on the surface and smell a distinctive sour tang.
150g strong white bread flour
Throw half the mixture away and mix in the fresh lot of flour and water. Leave for 24 hours.
Third and future stages:
100g strong white bread flour
From now on, at every feed, use a third starter, a third flour and a third water - I've stopped weighing now and just use a ladle.
You can store it in the fridge for about a week without feeding it if you want. You can also freeze it if you're not going to use it for ages.
You always want to leave the starter for 24 hours without feeding before a baking session (so it's nice and ravenous for the flour). If you've stored it in the fridge, remove 48 hours before, feed once after 24 hours and then leave for 24 hours before baking.
500g strong white bread flour
300ml water (stir together 200ml cold and 100ml boiled)
1 scant dsp fine salt
a little more flour for dusting
00.00: mix the flour, starter, water and salt together in a large bowl (I used a plastic bowl and a plastic spatula). Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave for one hour.
01.00: Scrape the dough onto your work surface and work the dough as demonstrated by M. Bertinet in the following video. I can't stress strongly enough how much fun this is. In fact, I reckon all he needs to do is dress up in Lycra and add a reggaeton soundtrack and he's got the latest exercise phenomenon on his hands. Zumba? I've shit it.
The relevant part of the video starts at 01:05 and ends at 02:49.
I guess I must have taken about 15 minutes with this (the difficulty is in stopping yourself). Like he says, don't worry about how sticky it is, or how much is initially sticking to your fingers. When you do manage to stop, flop the dough back into the bowl (I didn't bother about flouring or oiling it), cover again with the cling-film and leave for another hour.
02:00: scrape the dough back onto your work surface and repeat the slapping/stretching procedure for just a few minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and leave for one more hour.
03:00: once again, scrape the dough back onto your work surface and repeat the slapping/stretching procedure for just a few minutes. Then shape into a round as shown in the next video (the relevant bit starts at 02:20):
Here's a little slideshow of the various stages of my dough:
Place the dough in your (well-floured) proving basket, seam side up, flour the top and cover with cling-film.
When the dough has risen to your satisfaction, put a pizza stone into your oven and set the heat to the highest fan setting (I think mine reaches about 240C fan). Put a roasting tray on the bottom oven rack and pour in a generous amount of boiling water. Let the oven get back to its highest temperature.
Now flour the top of the dough generously to stop it sticking to the peel (polenta is good to use here) place your pizza peel over it and quickly flip. Remove the basket and then, as quick as you can, score the dough with a knife (I used a bread knife to make a cross)*. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone, shut the oven door and leave for ten minutes.
Turn the temperature down to 200C fan and leave for 15 minutes.
Check to see how your loaf is browning - I turned the oven down to 180C fan at this point and left it for a further 15 minutes before removing the loaf from the oven (so a total time of 40 minutes).
After all, they played their first comeback gig last night.
* Since I wrote this post I've baked two more sourdoughs without slashing the dough before it went into the oven. My thinking was that, by breaking the 'skin' that had formed on the dough while proving, I was only encouraging it to lose its shape and flatten out. As you can see from the photo below, the theory seems to work - the loaf rose much higher.